Nov 292014

Dr Litchfield has produced the 5th and final Statutory WCA Review. This Review is by far the most interesting and revealing.

  • Lichfield says WCA not fit for purpose

  • WCA Test shown not to be accurate

  • Different ESA Objectives incompatible with each other

  • Mandatory Reconsiderations Not effective say DWP staff.

  • ESA payments should continue during Mandatory Reconsideration

  • Problems with the Assessment Backlog

  • Too many 16-24 year olds being written off by ESA

  • Use of regulation 35 is successful

  • WCA must be scrapped.


According to Dr Litchfield, the WCA has exhausted its usefulness, but it should not be replaced immediately as it needs to be ‘embedded’ first to give time for a new system of assessment to be devised. After 5 years of recommendations, mainly aimed at improving the ‘claimant journey’ rather than the test accuracy, Dr Litchfield does not believe the current test can be improved further, but nor does he believe that it fulfills its intended purpose, which was to determine benefit eligibility on the basis of capability for work. ‘There must be clarity of purpose – determining benefit eligibility and supporting employment outcomes may not be compatible objectives’. It was however the basis on which the WCA was introduced.


There is also a long technical section devoted to the WCA Evidence Based Review. This review has its limitations which are well explained by Dr Litchfield, but it also highlights a very important point: when compared with another means of testing capability for work, the WCA performed much better than the alternative test which was proposed. But when it comes to assessing lack of capability for work, the WCA performance is well below average. ‘When measuring the specificity of the two assessments, the WCA performed better, scoring 87% in comparison to 63% for the 19-activity AA. However, when considering sensitivity, the AA was found to perform better, scoring 72% in comparison to 44%. High specificity would indicate a good capacity to identify those who are able to work while high sensitivity would reflect a good capacity to identify those with limited capability for work’. What this means is that the WCA is good at identifying people fit for work, but ineffective (44%) at identifying people who cannot work. Considering the consequences of being found fit for work when somebody is not, the conservative approach (which in this case does not mean the Tory approach) would have been to allow a few people fit for work to claim ESA rather than to deprive people unable to work of any income. This was not the approach taken, with the all too familiar consequences, and Dr Litchfield does not comment on this.


There is also a section on Mandatory Reconsiderations. Not much can be said about these as DWP has not produced any figures, statistics or indications of how MRs are performing, although they were introduced over a year ago, but it seems that ‘half DWP staff of dispute resolution Decision Makers perceived the process to be effective, with even fewer original Decision Makers sharing the view’. In other terms, less than 50 % of DWP staff perceive the process to be effective which is very worrying. DWP staff as a whole seem to have a better perception of the WCA process than claimants, and the fact that less than half of DWP staff perceive the Mandatory Reconsideration process to be effective would indicate an even lower level of satisfaction among claimants.

In addition, it seems that most DWP staff dealing with Mandatory Reconsiderations are the same people who previously dealt with the now abolished Social Fund. It is all credit to DWP not to have made these staff redundant, but what it means is DWP ‘dispute resolution teams’ dealing with Mandatory Reconsiderations are not ‘located in the areas that they serve, case files have to be requested from other offices and posted across the UK using secure postal services’. Which means more delays, and which may partly or entirely account for DWPs failure to produce any figures on waiting times, but anecdoctal evidence shows that some claimants have waited more than 6 months for their Mandatory Reconsideration outcome, without income. Dr Litchfield does highlight this issue with Mandatory Reconsiderations, although it is outside his terms of reference, by saying “Claiming JSA while undergoing mandatory reconsideration can also be problematic, as people can be informed by Jobcentre staff that they are too unwell to start a claim. This can in turn leave people without support at a time when they need it most. Given a JSA payment is the same as the ESA assessment rate, the DWP should explore whether the ESA assessment payment could be continued through mandatoryreconsideration as it is through the appeals process.” This point was raised by the W&P Committee for DWP to consider, but in the Government’s latest response to the Committee published yesterday, this recommendation was rejected, and it is not part of Dr Litchfield’s recommendations as this is outside the scope of his review.


It is impossible to ignore the WCA reviewers spending time on social media to analyse the perceptions of the WCA on Twitter. The findings were that ‘On average, around 11% were categorised as ‘negative’, compared to only 3% ‘positive’. The remaining 86% were recorded as neutral’. Only 11% negative? For Dr Litchfield, the main reason for these negative perceptions of the WCA process is ‘The regular changes to the assessment would certainly appear to influence negative perceptions. Not only do they keep the WCA in the public eye but each change may reinforce the view that the assessment is flawed’. Another point he makes is that ‘Any assessment should not only be fair but be perceived to be fair’, but for Dr Litchfield, the issue seems to be with failures to communicate properly about the process or the outcomes rather than with inherent flaws to the test or to the environment within which the test is performed.


Dr Litchfield then looks at the trends over time and highlights from October 2013 a substantial increase in the number of claimants placed in the Support Group, which he partly explains by the backlog and the way it was cleared. ‘This spike is likely to be a feature of the way in which the WCA backlog was addressed by the Department and the Provider’. This confirms what had always been suspected until now, that in order to clear the backlog, DWP and Atos prioritised the worst cases which could be cleared through paper based reviews, because it is much quicker, leading to a disproportionate number of claimants being placed in the Support Group.

But this is not enough to explain the spike and anomalies which show a deviation from the initial intent of the WCA, namely the disproportionate number of young people (16-24) with mental health conditions being placed in the Support Group with sometimes a very short prognosis (a word Dr Litchfield intends to have banned from the WCA terminology). Looking closer at this trend, it seems that the main reason for it is the very widespread use of Regulation 35 (2) (b). ‘The main driver for the increase appears to be the use of Regulation 35 (2) (b), where an individual is considered to constitute a substantial risk of harm’. Also contrary to what was highlighted in the last review, there is also now a close concordance between the recommendations of HCP and Decision Makers in the application of Regulation 35 (2) (b) and ‘86% were attributed to risk of harm resulting from an identified mental health condition’. Dr Litchfield could not find any reasons behind the more widespread application of Regulation 35 (2) (b) and is asking DWP to investigate as a matter of urgency whether it is correctly applied. It is a shame that Dr Litchfield does not push the logic further by wondering why HP and Decision Makers are using this regulation more widely with this specific group, and that he did not look at the broader environment, but again that was not part of his brief. Dr Litchfield repeatedly uses the expression ‘unintended consequences’ in relation to changes applied to the WCA process over time. One limitation of this approach is that it ignores the impact of other changes outside the WCA process which could have made the WRAG a ‘toxic group’.


To conclude, although Dr Litchfield no longer thinks the test is fit for purpose, he recommends giving the WCA a period of stability because ‘it is by no means perfect but there is no better replacement that can be pulled off the shelf’. After 4 reviews saying that it was the right test, this is a poor consolation. There has been a glaring omission in all these reviews, but as it was not part of the Reviewer’s terms of reference, this is not surprising.

Ultimately, the raison d’être of the WCA was to determine which claimants were fit for work, and the litmus test is the number of people found fit for work who have actually found a job. That has never been monitored by DWP and the only figures available are for ESA claimants with a short prognosis forced onto the Work Programme, with dismal results. That no alternative can be ‘pulled off the shelf’ is no justification for keeping a test which is unable to distinguish between claimants fit and unfit for work, which leaves them without income for lengthy periods, and which punishes people for being sick or disabled. Dr Litchfield’s last review confirms what claimants going through the process have been saying all along. The test has been improved as much as it could be, but it has not been made more accurate at identifying which claimants are fit or unfit to work.

We say:  The WCA should be scrapped and should be scrapped now.

 Posted by at 21:29
Nov 272014


Hashtag HiJack for BBC Question TIme

Download and tweet this picture with the hashtags #BBCQT and #SaveILF

As almost 20 000 disabled people across the UK wait to hear the decision in the latest round of High Court battles(1) over the Governments callous decision to close the  Independent Living Fund (ILF), the #SaveILF Campaign is going on a tour of the most popular hash-tags in the UK over  the next few weeks to highlight this callous attack on disabled peoples right to independent living.Following on from the massive support we have already received for our ILF Postcard Campaign from the stars(2) of ITV1 soap Corrie, BBC1 soap Eastenders & BBC1 hit drama Silent Witness, #SaveILF will go on a Hashtag Hijack, hijacking some of the most popular TV shows, sports and leisure events, and viral hits every week. And you can help us to tell the nation why ILF is so important, and what the can do to support the campaign to save it.
Beginning tonight with BBC1’s Question Time, we are asking all our members, friends and supporters to join us as we Hijack the hashtag:
#BBCQT from 10.00pm until the end of the show at 11.30pm. The ILF was setup in 1988(3) to provide support outside of Local Authority Care to disabled people with high support needs. The fund was closed to new applicants in 2010, and the Coalition Government announced in 2012 it was to be closed altogether, and Local Councils would be expected to meet users needs. This is despite mounting evidence of the biggest cuts to Councils(4) (whose biggest cost is Social Care) ever seen. With Councils unable to meet peoples needs in the community, many face being institutionalised in residential homes. Users challenged this decision, and earlier this year the High Courts(5) backed them, overturning the Governments decision. Lord Justice McCombe  said:“It seems to me that what was put before the minister did not give to her an adequate flavour of the  responses received [during the consultation period] indicating that independent living might well be put seriously in peril for a large number of  people.”

However, the Government haven’t accepted the Courts ruling, and we now await the Courts latest decision.

So lets not sit back and wait for the next line in the story, LETS BE the next line in the story.

Remember to also use #SaveILF (& #bbcqt) also in all your Tweets. You can follow @Dis_PPL_Protest, and share ours, or you can go here: and select from some of our favourites.

Linda Burnip, a founding member of DPAC and part of the #SaveILF Campaign said ‘we have beaten the previous Minister on this already. This new case represents the last desperate act of a desperate department which hasn’t got a single decision right since this Government came to power‘.

Our homes NOT residential homes!


 Posted by at 11:26
Nov 262014

The Slow Progress On Disabled Peoples’ Rights

by Dominic McDevitt

There has been much said about the issue of Civil Rights for disabled people. Some from the current Coalition Administration between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have sought to infer that the Conservatives were somehow liberators of disabled people and that the Conservative Administration between 1992 and 1997 led the way on disability issues.

The reality is that the Campaign for full and enforceable Civil Rights for Disabled people has a long and turbulent history with many setbacks and disappointments and injustices done along the way. There is much evidence to demonstrate how disabled people have found ourselves “pushed to the back of the queue” when the equalities agenda has been addressed.

In many respects disabled people have at best been treated as an afterthought. The social stigmas around disability and disabled people in society have been deeply engrained and remain stubbornly present to this day.

The law has often been slow to react to issues in society and that is certainly the case when considering disability issues. The “low priority” afforded to disabled people can be seen from the weak and poorly enforced legislation that took the form of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts of 1944 and 1958. Following these Statues there was a voluntary register for Disabled People and a quota system established. This quota system was supposed to require employers of 20 or more people to employ a workforce of disabled people to the proportion of 3% of the total workforce.1This legislation lacked an effective enforcement mechanism, and the prejudice and hostility to disabled people in the workplace set the tone for many years and as a result was effectively rendered worthless .

It would seem that the attitude that disabled people were a ‘burden’ and a section of society to be addressed as a ‘problem’, rather than as a section of society with something to offer, and part of the community to be engaged with, was the prevailing one. The patronising and paternalistic attitude has unfortunately been a longstanding undercurrent in the UK and does seem to be resurgent since the arrival of austerity politics.

It is interesting to note that there were several attempts to introduce equality legislation for Disabled People but all of these were prevented from successfully completing the necessary Parliamentary stages to become law. Edwin Shorts and Claire de Than observe in their Book2

Between 1982 and 1994 there were seventeen attempts to reform the law in this area by introducing Bills most of which had cross party support, yet none of them became law. It was only in 1994 that the campaign reached such heights of popularity and publicity that legislation seemed inevitable, with Disabled people mounting protests such as sit ins… ….In 1994 the Government defeated the last of the attempts to legislate by Private Members’ Bill…and introduced a consultation document…”

It would be erroneous to contend that somehow the United Kingdom Government led the way in the field of Disability Rights Law, The United States of America acted considerably sooner and in fact it was their legislation which sought to open up a new frontier and value the contribution made by disabled citizens. The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) was championed by Senator Edward M Kennedy3 and Senator Tom Harkin4 The Americans With Disabilities Act which was passed by the Senate towards the end of 1989 and signed into Law by the Republican President, George H.W Bush In July of 1990 built on America’s pervious Civil Rights legislation from the 1960’s . Senator Kennedy stated5

Today’s Action by the Senate marks an historic step in the long journey to complete the unfinished business of America and bring full civil rights and fair opportunity to all our citizens. In a sense this legislation is an emancipation proclamation……and America will be a better, fairer, and stronger nation because of it. 43 Million disabled men, women and children will benefit from our action. For too long, they have been invisible…denied opportunity, victimised by prejudice, excluded from everyday activities of society…….Mindless physical barriers and outdated social attitudes have made them second class citizens for too long. Now with this legislation, they will have a fair chance to participate in the Mainstream of American life. This is a proud day in the history of civil rights. It is difficult to believe that this Congress will enact a more far-reaching or more important bill.”

It could be contended that the American legislation embarrassed the Government of the day in the UK into action, after all it should not be forgotten that there had been other Equalities legislation passed in the United Kingdom, to address Race and Gender issues in the 1970’s onwards yet, it was not until the mid-nineties that disability was taken seriously. It is perhaps more accurate to describe the steps taken which led to the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) as grudgingly done.

Where the Americans blazed the trail the Political establishment in the UK merely followed. A clear example of this can be seen from the fact that the American Law introduced the notion of “Reasonable accommodation”, this is something we can see borrowed in the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) (DDA). The American law was considerably more comprehensive with a far bigger reach than the UK token measure, which had many glaring omissions.

The Disability Discrimination Act contained some massive omissions, such as failing to apply to education. It is worth observing that if a person is denied access to a good quality education, it will be significantly more difficult for that individual to succeed and progress in society. Regrettably it took until 2001 for Education to be properly included in Disability Discrimination legislation, this took the form of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Rights in Education Act (2001).

While there are those who would seek to portray the 1995 Act as being an adequate response to the needs and legitimate concerns of disabled people, this is far from the case, in reality it could even be contended that this legislation merely underscored the second-class citizenship imposed on disabled people. It was a weak piece of legislation that bore the hallmarks of tokenism rather than being a herald of new social change, valuing the contribution of disabled people. This legislation could perhaps be described as a rather half-hearted effort. This was because of the ‘built in’ weaknesses at the very heart of the Act some of these were as follows:-

  • The Act only applied to employers that employed 20 or more people. The key point here is that as has been observed above, the law merely required an employer to make “Reasonable adjustment”, why should any employer of any size need an exemption from Acting reasonably?6
  • The Disability Discrimination Act only addressed direct discrimination and created a situation where indirect discrimination could be justified
  • The Act established the “National Disability Council”, which was merely a talking shop, with no enforcement powers apparently based on the flawed contention that attitudinal changes to the deeply engrained prejudice and bigotry towards disabled people could be brought about merely by education of non-disabled people without the need to give disabled people a commission to assist in ensuring the law was taken seriously.

A key area where the 1995 legislation passed by the then Conservative Administration led by John Major, denied parity to disabled people as compared to other groups with Equality legislation on the Statute Book was the failure to provide for an adequate enforcement Commission like the ones which had been created to enforce laws on Race and Gender Discrimination. It is worth noting that the Legislation covering both Race and Gender had been in operation for around 20 years at the time of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), this in itself serves as a demonstration of how far Disabled people had been left behind, the failure to include an enforcement Commission was a serious setback and one which was bitterly resented by many disabled people. The establishment of the Disability Rights Commission was a key achievement of the Blair Administration.7

In the Debate on the Disability Rights Commission Bill it was clear that there was a great degree of resentment about the fact that the previous Conservative Government had ignored the need for an enforcement mechanism.

Roger Berry, the then MP for Kingswood,8who himself had been a key Sponsor of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons’) Bill, a Private Members’ Bill ‘talked out’ by the Government in 19949 observed10

One cannot forget entirely the fact that the previous Government were forced to introduce the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 after years of doing everything imaginable-and even things that I thought were unimaginable to block that legislation… … The then Government established the National Disability Council……… The National Disability Council is the only Government agency that I can recall that campaigned for its own abolition almost from day one. It recognised that we needed a commission….Let no one pretend that we would today be debating the Third Reading of the Disability Rights Commission Bill without a Labour victory at the last general election. We are debating the Bill also because the Government have moved with great speed: they found the legislative time to introduce this legislation within…two years of taking office…”

The long awaited Disability Rights Commission opened to begin the serious task of its enforcement duties in April 2000.

The establishment of an enforcement Commission was far from the only area which needed urgent action one of the steps that was taken in December 1997 was the Establishment of a Disability Rights Taskforce. This body had the task of examining the gaps in protection of the rights of disabled people and making recommendations to the Government relating to changes in the law. 11 The Specific terms of reference in which the Taskforce operated were to:-

Consider how best to secure, comprehensive, enforceable civil rights for disabled people within the context of our wider society and to make recommendations on the role and functions of a Disability Rights Commission… … The Task Force will take full account of the costs as well as the benefits of any proposals, so far as quantifiable and practicable, and in particular ensure that its recommendations for a Disability Rights Commission achieve value for money for the taxpayer”12

The Taskforce was made up of a wide variety of representatives, some of whom were disabled people as well as representatives of Organisations with links to different types of impairment together with Employers organisations and those with links to the Trade Union Movement, representing Employees. The Taskforce final report entitled From Exclusion to Inclusion13 made over 150 recommendations for changes in almost all aspects of life the report made recommendations concerning:-

  • The definition of disability
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Access to Goods, Services and Premises
  • Travel
  • The Environment and Housing
  • Participation in Public Life
  • Local Government, Health and Social Services

It is incorrect to contend that the situation facing disabled people was adequately addressed by the weak legislation passed in 1995, as we have already seen, it lacked an effective enforcement mechanism, and in many areas of life in modern society, left disabled people with little or no protection. We must not forget these were in basic areas where others could take basic rights for granted. Indeed it could be contended that the slow pace of change was in itself an indication of the second-class status afforded to disabled people.

Another factor to bear in mind when considering these issues is the fact that the changes were often phased in so that Employers, Providers of goods and services etc, got time to ‘get used’ to the new obligations placed on them. While it could be contended that this was done so as not to “put off” those who would be affected, it could be contended that the negative ramification of the phased slow approach was the loss of impetus and perhaps, to some degree an inference that disabled people should apologise for seeking to assert their legitimate right to equality which may have sent out a mixed message, that somehow disabled people “didn’t want to put anyone to any trouble” or be a “nuisance” .

It was a flawed argument in the mid 1990’s to contend that the situation could be improved for disabled people simply by education alone with a minimal reliance on law. This seemed to be the view of those who opposed disabled people’s Civil Rights laws14. The danger resulting from such an approach is that the serious nature of the issues at stake can become portrayed as mere “political correctness” and this can do damage which resonates long into the future.

The other great barrier for disabled people has and is, the attitudinal one which holds disabled people back as a result of deeply ingrained prejudice and bigotry that has tainted the approach to disabled people and the issues affecting us for generations. Too often there is a culture of low expectation where disabled people are concerned and a lack of political will to address disability issues because disabled people have and to a large extent continue to be seen as needing a paternalistic and patronising approach where everything done to us, is for our own good . regrettably there has been a failure to acknowledge effectively that the attitudinal barriers weaken the effects of any legal change and alongside this, the simple, yet basic fact that disabled people have the same aspirations as anyone else, has been and still is too easily ignored.

Law alone will not soften the hard bigoted attitudes that often confront disabled people as we seek to assert our rightful place in society as equal citizens. Disabled Peoples Rights needed then, and still need now to be looked at from this perspective also This was an aspect which was not lost on the Disability Rights Taskforce there they observe15 that:-

We welcome the Government’s recognition of the weaknesses in the DDA and its…commitment to comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people……we felt it was essential attitudes towards disabled people were also changed if we are to make real progress. Changing attitudes should not be left to disability organisations or Government alone. It is a task all in society must share from teachers educating children about the value of diversity to businesses changing the attitudes of employees and customers…”

The then Government issued a formal response to the final report in a document entitled Towards inclusion – Civil Rights for Disabled people Government response to the Disability Rights Taskforce16 This document provided significant progress and eventually led to the Disability Discrimination Act (2005) getting to this point was a little drawn out as it was subject to a draft Bill, the explanation for such a move being the desire to get things right.

From this though, it is clear to see that the vast majority of the improvements in the recognition and enforcement of the Rights of Disabled people happened from the late 1990’s onwards and a significant piece of legislation to close the chasms in the 1995 Act came into effect 10 years after that Act.

Things moved on a stage further when there was recognition that people were encountering discrimination on more than one ground. Firstly there was the establishment of a single Equality commission and then the Equality Act (2010) which sought to codify all the Equality legislation into One Act.

It is also important not to underestimate the impact of the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2007) while this does not seek to grant new rights it did however seek to make a statement about the basic Rights that Disabled people should have access to. The Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention17 states18

…The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the response

of the international community to the long history of discrimination, exclusion

and dehumanization of persons with disabilities. It is historic and

groundbreaking in many ways, being the fastest negotiated human rights treaty

ever and the first of the twenty-first century. The Convention is the result

of three years of negotiations involving civil society, Governments, national

human rights institutions and international organizations. After adopting

the Convention in the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006,

a record number of countries demonstrated their commitment to respecting

the rights of persons with disabilities by signing the Convention and Optional

Protocol when they opened for signature in March 2007.

The Convention ensures that the world’s largest minority enjoys the same

rights and opportunities as everyone else. It covers the many areas where

persons with disabilities have been discriminated against including access to

justice; participation in political and public life; education; employment; freedom

from torture, exploitation and violence, as well as freedom of movement.

Under the Optional Protocol, individuals of States parties to the Protocol who

allege violations of their rights, and who have exhausted national remedies,

can seek redress from an independent international body.

The Convention is long overdue. It is over 25 years since the 1981

International Year of Disabled Persons brought global attention to the issues

affecting persons with disabilities. …”

It was unfortunate that when the UK Government ratified the Convention in 2009, they made reservation from Article 24 with regard to maintaining segregation in education in certain circumstances, the Reservation stated

 Education – Convention Article 24 Clause 2 (a) and 2 (b)
The United Kingdom reserves the right for disabled children to be educated outside their local community where more appropriate education provision is available elsewhere. Nevertheless, parents of disabled children have the same opportunity as other parents to state a preference for the school at which they wish their child to be educated”

Despite the Reservations made by the UK Government in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2007), its ratification did send out an important message about the progress that was and had been made in relation to the rights of disabled people. It is fair to say that in the UK, disabled people’s Rights advanced significantly during the period 1997-2010 before the Current Coalition took office. By contrast, since the Coalition took office, we have seen a situation develop where it is more difficult for disabled people to access their rights. While it is not the purpose of this document to set out the litany of attacks on the rights of disabled people, it is hoped that the reader will have gained an appreciation of the fact that Disabled people’s Rights made significant and steady progress which has now been significantly halted and worryingly, perhaps even dismantled.

Disabled People should not have to accept second-class citizenship. The simple reality is that disabled people have the same aspirations as anyone else. No Government, of whatever persuasion should ignore this fact or have difficulty accepting it. Regrettably however, history shows us that they have . What is needed is a commitment and the political will to ensure we do not get returned to the dark days of the past where the negative attitudes to disabled people set the agenda.

What we have seen is that Disabled People have always had a significant battle on our hands for the Rights others can take for granted. It is important that we fight to protect the gains that were slowly and painstakingly made and continue the fight to ensure that disabled people can take our rightful place as full equals in society.

October 2014

1 Often disabled People found themselves pushed into low skilled work and stereotypical roles left to disabled people might be something like Car-Park or Public Toilet Attendant Invariably low skilled or repetitive tasks.

2 Civil Liberties Legal Principles of individual freedom Published by Sweet and Maxwell ( London) (1998) 1st (edition) at p574

3 The then Senior Senator for Massachusetts who held a senior position on very significant United States Senate Committees, as the Youngest Brother of President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General, and later, Senator, Robert F Kennedy, He was a personality who carried significant weight in view of the legacy of the 1960’s and the historic significance of his late Brothers’ Administration (Senator Kennedy held the seat that had been held by his elder Brother who vacated it when he won the 1960 presidential Election and he served for 47 years until his death in August 2009)

4 Senator from Iowa

5 In a Press statement from his Senate Office Dated September 7th 1989.

6 This exemption was dropped gradually by the Labour Government from 20 first to 15 and then eventually abolished

7 The Disability Rights Commission Act was passed in 1999 and became operational in April 2000

8 Mr Berry served as MP for the Constituency of Kingswood between 1992 – 2010

9 Friday March 11th 1994

10 At Column 385 of House of Commons Official Report Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) Vol. 334 No.114 Disability Rights Commission Bill [Lords] (Wednesday 30th June 1999) (Published by HM Stationary Office)

11 The Disability Rights Taskforce was established in December 1997

12 At Paragraph 2 on pps 4-5 of Towards Inclusion the final Report of the Disability Rights Taskforce Published by the Department for Education and Employment London (December 1999)

13 Published by the Department for Education and Employment London (December 1999)

14 The author has in his possession, correspondence from a Conservative MP, for Leicestershire NW in 1994 that seeks to contend that the Bill for Civil Rights for Disabled People, while having noble intentions, would place to much of a cost on the economy and that the measures proposed in the alternative are a step forward.

15 At Paragraph 2 on p4 of Towards Inclusion the final Report of the Disability Rights Taskforce Published by the Department for Education and Employment London (December 1999)

16 Published by the Department for Education and Employment (London) (March 2001)

17 From Exclusion to Equality Realising the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional Protocol Published by the United Nations (Geneva) (2007)

18 At page III of the forward

 Posted by at 19:22
Nov 212014

[Reblogged from Ipswich Unemployed Action, with thanks]

Iain Duncan Smith MP (centre) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions visits the new youth employment centre MyGo in Ipswich. Photograph Simon Parker

We had a long wait for Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) yesterday (we began at 9 o’clock)  but he finally arrived at “MyGo” Ipswich at 5.00 pm, accompanied by Ben Gummer, before heading off to a £45 a head Tory fund raising dinner in Melton.

This Tory Party stunt received a hostile welcome from many people.

Members of DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts)  from Suffolk and Norfolk, and Suffolk Peoples Assembly made sure the message that his term of office as Work & Pensions Minister has been a disaster for people with disabilities and should be terminated immediately came over loud and clear.

As we stood many Ipswich people came up and told us their own stories of how IDS has made their lives worse.

Cries of ‘murderer’ greeted the Tory Toff as he was spotted in the building.

So effective was this messaging that the tv interview they were trying to conduct had to be moved from room to room within the building – only for DPAC banners and renewed chanting to pop up outside the window of each successive refuge.

We think they might have had to hide in the broom cupboard to complete the footage!

The report on Look East (BBC) mentioned that a “small group of protesters tried to disrupt the visit.”

They showed the Proud Banner of Suffolk DPAC in the window of the room where he’d finally scurried to.

Report from Sarah and Andy.

 Posted by at 22:03
Nov 182014

New regulations have very recently been laid before Parliament which will cut Disabled Students Allowance. At DPAC we are concerned that these cuts will seriously reduce or even prevent disabled students from taking part in higher education. We are concerned that the Regulations were laid without a public consultation and in breach of the public sector equality duty. If you are worried about the cuts to Disabled Students Allowance because you are (or will be) a university student who would apply for DSA, please get in touch with us at

 Posted by at 21:42
Nov 152014

[Reblogged from Morning Star, with thanks]

Brighton man sanctioned despite applying for 67 jobs in a fortnight, writes Joe Gill

A Brighton jobseeker has turned the tables on Iain Duncan Smith’s punitive sanctions regime after his benefits were docked despite applying for 67 jobs in a fortnight.

Peter Styles has written a blog about his experience that has gone viral, reaching more than 8,000 hits yesterday after being launched on Tuesday.

The communications and PR specialist has been out of work and signing on for a year since his last employer ceased trading.

He says he has applied for “everything from copywriter position, to insight manager, probably seven or eight job titles I can do.”

Mr Styles told the Star: “The administrative officer said my job search was good – however it was not broad enough.

“They wanted me to apply to be an Asda grocery colleague and a personal shopper. I did that, neither of which even require a CV. They’re school leaver positions.”

Last month his local jobcentre moved him from fortnightly signing-on to the new daily signing-on system.

When he complained about the regime, created by Work and Pension Secretary Mr Duncan Smith under his work programme, he says he was segregated from other jobseekers and had his benefit sanctioned without appeal.

“I demanded a manager to come down but she was the woman who I’d been having massive problems with,” Mr Styles recalled.

“Throughout this time I was put in a segregated area because I expressed my views about the policy.”

Mr Styles has appealed against the decision and lodged an official complaint against two jobcentre staff with assistance from the Brighton Unemployed Workers’ Centre.

“I’ve been signed off with stress for a month due to the harassment I’ve been subjected to,” Mr Styles added. “The DWP indirectly are trying to destroy my mental health.”

A spokesman for civil servants’ union PCS said the daily signings were punitive.

“If you are hauling people in every day to sign on it reduces the amount of time they can go out and look for work,” he said.

“The sanctions regime is absolutely abhorrent and should be scrapped.

It is entirely counterproductive – it doesn’t get anyone back to work. It’s an absolutely pernicious system for both claimants and job centre staff.”

The Department for Work and Pensions had not replied to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

Mr Styles’ blog can be viewed at

 Posted by at 22:38
Nov 152014

[Reblogged from Johnny Void, with thanks]

The bastards are dropping like flies.  A string of victories have been won this week as people at the sharp end of austerity have shown that we don’t need giant trade unions or insincere political parties to do politics for us.Graffitit on a wall - we are winning!!

In East London, property developers Redrow have announced they are selling their £46.75m stake in 1 Commercial Street, the luxury tower block in East London.  This building has been the target of an 18 week campaign against the ‘poor doors’ which force people in the so-called affordable properties to use a different entrance to those living in the posh flats.  Rowdy weekly demonstrations have brought chaos to this busy part of London and enjoyed huge local support.  The protests are set to continue with a victory celebration next Wednesday 19th November from 6pm.

Meanwhile in Hackney the tenants on the New Era estate have driven the vile Benyon family to sell their investment in the estate where residents have been threatened with huge rent hikes.  This decision followed a lively protest when hundreds of people marched on the Benyon Estate offices and served a mock eviction on the company which is co-owned by Tory MP Richard Benyon – believed to be Britain’s richest elected politician.  Suddenly London’s property market is not looking like such a lucrative investment as everywhere people are starting to organise against soaring rents, gentrification, social segregation and evictions.

A stunning triumph against workfare has also taken place in Liverpool where the city’s branch of the IWW Union had called a demonstration against the use of workfare by council sub-contractors Bulky Bobs.  Not only did the threat of this protest cause the organisation to pull out of unpaid work and agree to sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement, but they have also issued one of the strongest statements yet against Jobcentre workfare schemes.  Quoted on the Liverpool IWW website, Bulky Bobs say: “We are happy to support Liverpool IWW in their efforts to persuade the DWP to scrap Workfare and would urge any other business involved in the scheme to withdraw at once.”

Resistance to forced work has been strong in Liverpool, with regular protests being held and volunteer agencies in the city condemning workfare. Liverpool Council have also pledged to boycott George Osborne’s Help To Work scheme which forces claimants to work for six months without pay or face losing meagre benefits.  Liverpool could soon become the first workfare free city, which would be pretty fucking funny given that Merseyside contains the constituency of Employment Minister Esther McVey.

There was a further victory against workfare in Motherwell after LAMH Recycling also announced they would be ending their involvement with the scheme.  This social enterprise hit the headlines after local unemployed man John McArthur was sanctioned for refusing to work without pay at the organisation where he had previously been a paid employee.  John had held weekly protests outside the company leading to them finally withdrawing from forced labour.  Following the announcment McArthur took to twitter to thank the “extraordinary kindness of people whom I have never met but who have contacted me offering assistance. They keep alive the true spirit of charity, i.e caritas (love), and giving without seeking a fee (or free labour)”.

Finally a resurgent Class War, who also instigated the Poor Doors protests, chased Iain Duncan Smith across his leafy Chingford constituency yesterday.  Unfortunately they didn’t manage to catch the bastard but they did discover that the only way he could get people to attend his self-publicising jobs fair was to threaten to take their benefits away if they didn’t show up.  Pitiful.

At times it feels like the onslaught of shit is relentless.  But these events show that when we fight back we can win.  Don’t wait for political parties, the TUC or the growing band of celebrity lefties to tell you what to do.  Find a weak spot, organise, and kick it till it fucking breaks.

 Posted by at 22:33
Nov 142014

This is the 7th annual Burn Pudsey Friday and this year not only do we continue to abhor the sickening demonisation of disabled children as vulnerable and in need of charity but worse we need to find out from the BBC why they still have £86 million from previous Pudsey Makes me Puke events unspent, unallocated and sitting on a BBC bank account doing nothing more then make more money for the BBC.

If this money was donated to help disabled children then why hasn’t it been used for this purpose?

If you want to know why this is then email Tony Hall the newish director general of the BBC on

You may also want to ask the same question from the Charity Commission who can be contacted  on




 Posted by at 22:43
Nov 142014

DWP management target disabled  benefit claimants.

Over the next 24 hours DWP management will ‘invite’ close on 2,000 benefit claimants from Birmingham to attend interviews, with a goal of getting at least 10% off the benefit register.

The group of benefit claimants being targeted are in the majority waiting for assessments to decide if they are able to be deemed ‘fit for work’. (The assessment formerly and controversially run by ATOS). Those waiting assessments are often disabled or vulnerable adults.

The ‘invitation’ letter issued makes no suggestion that the attendance to these interviews is purely voluntary, indeed DWP staff in Birmingham (and Central England) have been advised verbally and by email from management to keep it to themselves that attendance to these interviews is not mandatory. One manager in a city based office was overheard saying that the way to deal with these claimants is to ‘hassle, hassle them off benefit’.

Andrew Lloyd, PCS Midlands regional secretary that represents DWP staff said, “It is outrageous that the DWP are duping the most vulnerable by issuing this letter, and then worse still setting a target to get those off benefits, it could be argued that this approach is unlawful. Our members are totally opposed to this approach but are faced with inferred disciplinary action unless they act upon these targets.”

[Press Release from PCS Union]

If you receive one of these letters, or if you receive a letter about Work Focussed Interviews while you are in the support group YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ATTEND and they cannot stop your benefits if you don/t attend.

Here is a template letter that you can use to reply to the letter from the DWP:

Dear Sir/ madam (DWP)
I understand that this interview is not mandatory and my non attendance will not affect my benefit payments. I am therefore exercising my right not to attend this interview.
I want to make it clear that I will cooperate with all mandatory requirements to ensure continued payment of benefits.


please contact us via email if you are worried or would like more information



 Posted by at 17:41
Nov 142014

Benefits and Work website yesterday published an email sent by Labour which explains their proposals to improve WCA.

It is a summary of previously announced proposals but we thought we would take this opportunity to restate, perhaps in even more strident terms our position with respect to Labour’s WCA Proposals.

We have done this many times of course, both on the blog and in direct communication with Labour but nothing ever seems to sink in.

Labours proposals are:

1. We will start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work. With Labour, disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor’s report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them – a first vital step towards a more integrated system of support.

2. Secondly, we would continue to produce an independent review of the WCA, and ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way. We will commit to responding to the recommendations of this report.

3. Finally, a Labour government will go further in ensuring that the assessments get it right first time. We would make sure that in the new system there would be clear penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.

These changes are falling very short of being crucial.

First they are very vague, and do not address the very high number of ESA overturned decisions by tribunals or even by DWP own reconsideration process (before mandatory reconsiderations were introduced).

The reviews that Labour is committed to produce have been discredited. Professor Harrington, by deciding to talk about his misgivings about moving IB claimants onto ESA only, after he lost his lucrative job for DWP when he could have spoken up before, Dr Litchfield because he devised the Mental health descriptors and was very unlikely to challenge them later in his review.

What disabled people have been waiting for, is a sign from Labour frontbench that disabled people have been unfairly targeted by cuts, but also mistreated, bullied, abused and driven to suicide.

They are still waiting.

One Labour backbencher suggested that one way to improve things very quickly was to pause the reassessments. This suggestion from Sheila Gilmore is welcome and it is surprising that it was not followed up by Rachel Reeves or Kate Green.

The focus on disabled people working, contributing to the economy shows that Labour, like the Tories only see people as economical variables, not people who deserve to live a decent life.

Lastly, if you still have some illusions, sanctioning disabled people wasn’t introduced by the Tories, it began under the last Labour Government.

These WCA Proposals from Labour are “figleaf policies”, intended only to do the barest minimum needed to avoid embarrassment for Labour. It hasn’t worked.  

So here it is again, our response to Labour on WCA (maybe this time it will sink in):-

Are you taking the Piss?


The WCA is a cause of stress and hardship to disabled people, it is inaccurate, causes harm, and it DOESN’T EVEN GET DISABLED PEOPLE INTO WORK.

The WCA has caused people to commit suicide and your WCA will continue to cause people to commit suicide.

You are still planning to use LIMA, a computer program to MAKE CATASTROPHICALLY WRONG DECISIONS, TIME AND TIME AND TIME AGAIN.

You are still planning to bully people who CAN NOT WORK with repeat assessments.

Will you stop mandatory consideration? If so how are you going to handle the flood of appeals from wrong decisions? If not, you are no better than the Tories.

More “Harrington” Reviews of the WCA? Don’t make us laugh.


and after all that, after the fear, the misery, the anxiety, the hardship and the suicides, your WCA won’t get disabled people into work because THERE ARE NO JOBS AVAILABLE for us.


And when a job is available, we can’t get there because WE DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO TRANSPORT,

DPAC’s response to Labour’s WCA proposals in a nutshell:

SCRAP THE WCA & ESA and Scrap Sanctions for all.

Then come up with something much much better that addresses our real needs, not Daily Mail headlines.

Has it sunk in yet?

 Posted by at 15:44
Nov 132014

We are getting information that people in the ESA Support Group are being required by JobCentre Plus offices to attend Work Focussed Interviews, under threat of benefits being withdrawn if you don’t go.

According to the DWP Webpage, if you are in the Support Group you “You don’t have to go to interviews, but you can ask to talk to a personal adviser. “, which should mean that they cannot require you to attend.

We are going to look closely at this and do whatever we can to get this stopped, but in order to do that we first need to gather information about how widespread this is, which areas it is happening in and how long it has been going on.

So we are asking for people to come forward if you are in the ESA Support Group and have been contacted by your Jobcentre to attend an interview, we would really like to hear from you, please email us at and we will get back to you

We will never disclose your name or personal information without  your permission, but we may ask you if we can use your case to campaign against this. If you say no to this we will not use the information in any way, and your information will still help us to understand what is happening.

 Posted by at 16:27
Nov 122014

[Reblogged from Johnny Voidbulky-bobs-truck, with thanks]

A protest is planned in Liverpool outside the premises of waste collection firm Bulky Bobs after it was revealed that the so-called social enterprise are using workfare.

Bulky Bobs have a contract with Liverpool City Council to collect large items of household waste.  This is the kind of work which was once carried out by local authorities but is now outsourced to the private and voluntary sectors.  Bulky Bobs drive round in vans proudly emblazoned with the council’s logo.  But according to the Liverpool branch of the IWW Union, many of the people doing this work are not getting paid:

“[…] there is one paid manager in the store (who used to work for the company that is now LearnDirect which is one of the major ‘providers’) and the rest of the staff are on workfare or ‘volunteers’. Likewise, the connected company FRC (Furniture Resource Centre) has a warehouse on Brunswick Dock which runs on workfare, as do its vans which collect and deliver to Bulky Bobs.”

FRC Ltd, who own Bulky Bobs, say in this report (pdf), that they made 11 posts redundant in 2012/13, including operational staff. In a clear indication of workfare being used to replace paid jobs, in the same document they admit forcing people to work for no wages on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.  Even more appallingly, they say they are receiving tax-payers money to go with their free forced workers.

FRC-workfareOf course they don’t admit this on their barely functioning shit website where they lie that placements are voluntary:


The IWW will be holding a protest outside Bulky Bob’s shop on London Road, Liverpool on Saturday 22nd November at 11am and have called on people to join them.  Please help by sharing the facebook page and in the meantime everone’s piling in on twitter

Related – TUC: Only 1 in every 40 new jobs created since 2008 are Full-time jobs

 Posted by at 14:50
Nov 122014

Iain Duncan Smith
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Dear Secretary of State,

We are deeply concerned by your decision to award the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) contract to private contractor Maximus, rather than bring the work back in-house to be carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions.

In March, Atos negotiated an early exit from the now infamous £500 million Work Capability Assessment contract, prompting a government exercise to find a new provider.

However, we feel that simply changing the company providing the test will not address concerns voiced by the medical profession, disability groups, numerous MPs and equality campaigners. Firstly, any new provider will be required to test people according to the same criteria which are designed to reduce the number of claimants rather than fairly and accurately meet people’s needs, and secondly, private contractors have to make money out of the contract which at a time of cuts means squeezing the quality of work.

Awarding this contract to a private company which has had considerable concerns raised over its record in US states is a missed opportunity for which the poorest and most disadvantaged in society will again pay a high price. The lessons were there to be learnt but sadly the government appears to have chosen to repeat its mistakes.

The fiasco of recent years demanded the government take responsibility and control of the process. The only way it can do this is by bringing the work and Atos staff, who formerly worked for DWP, back in-house so that the department has direct control over processes and staffing. It would also go a long way to repairing the reputation of DWP medical assessment work.

Mark Serwotka (PCS General Secretary), John McDonnell (Lab, Hayes and Harlington), Grahame Morris (Lab, Easington), Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion), Paul Flynn (Lab, Newport West) , Ian Lavery (Lab, Wansbeck), Elfyn Llwyd MP, Leader of Plaid Cymru, and disability rights advocacy groups Disabled People Against the Cuts, Inclusion London, Black Triangle and medical advisor to Black Triangle and campaigner, Dr. Stephen Carty.

Read more here

Take part in the campaign by PCS Union to get rid of all private contractors from the WCA process, by emailing your MP


 Posted by at 14:43
Nov 102014

Who2Vote4 LogoIn May 2015 there will be a general election in the UK.

Where we are now

Since 2010 the UK has been governed by an unelected Conservative party who were only able to form a government by allying themselves with the Liberal Democrats. The policies that have been put in place by this coalition which are wiping out disabled people’s human rights on a daily basis and which have led to massive increases in hate crime against disabled people were never part of either party’s election manifesto and so were never voted on by the UK electorate.

We start from already having some of the lowest benefit rates in Europe both for those of working age and pensioners. 1

Spending cuts have been so severe over the past 4 years with more to come that on some estimates the UK will by 2017 have the lowest share of public spending among leading capitalist economies, including the US.

Professor Taylor-Goody says there is no realistic prospect of that fundamentally changing, irrespective of the outcome of the general election.2

This report says there must be speculation about why the 7th richest country, which experiences no difficulties in borrowing over long terms at low interest rates, should choose to adopt such unusual economic policies, particularly since such policies are now agreed by most commentators to be damaging to the national interest. Welfare for the poor is being cut back sharply. 3

A recent UNICEF report found that millions ‘have fallen prey to the dangers of austerity’ during the recession years and said Britain should ‘review’ its economic policies as a ‘priority’ and raise working tax credit, increase benefits in line with inflation, and push up the minimum wage for under 21s.4


The Resolution Foundation shows how job insecurity is increasing and wages stagnating, particularly at the bottom end.5 This obviously has an additional impact on disabled people.

Poverty has risen dramatically and food bank usage has increased both for those in and out of work. In April 2013 over 900,000 people had been forced to use Trussell foodbanks an increase of 163% over the previous 12 months. 6

Malnutrition is becoming a public health emergency with hospital admissions for this doubling between 2008 and 2012-13 (latest available figures).7

Sanctions Which result in the removal of all benefit payments from 4 -26 weeks and in some cases for 3 years

For disabled people on ESA the numbers sanctioned between March 2013 and March 2014 increased from 1,356 to 6,1495 almost trebling. 65% of those sanctioned have Mental health conditions.

This figure does not include disabled people who have been wrongly found fit for work and forced to claim Job Seekers Allowance.8

The latest data for England shows that there were 118,002 JSA claimants that received an adverse sanction decision in the last month for which data is available.9

We have already evidenced how the Coalition austerity measures have impacted on disabled people and led to increasing levels of poverty, destitution and despair. They are causing and continue to cause grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights enshrined in UNCRPD. Even when court cases can be brought (legal aid has now been restricted) the courts do not always help eg. although bedroom tax has been found to be a disability discrimination issue the court has ruled that this is justifiable.

The cumulative impact of the loss of disabled people’s human rights has not been measured in any way by the government although this has been called for by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Prospects for the general election and after

Minority Parties

UKIP – this is a relatively newly formed political party which is opposed to the EU, immigration and appears to be attracting disillusioned voters of the right and left. Currently they are shown by polls to have 16% share of the vote. UKIP are unlikely to have enough elected MPs to be able to form a government but as a particularly right wing party could be espeacially dangerous if they were to become part of any coalition government or hold the balance of power in any way. They are forcing everything to the right and pulling Conservatives and Labour further from policies that are consistent with equalities as they compete for who can be toughest on migrants (and there are disabled migrants of course) and especially migrants claiming benefits which is fuelling the demonisation of benefit claimants.

Liberal Democrats – currently in a coalition with the Conservatives. Viewed as generally untrustworthy as they have abandoned most if not all of their principles to secure a share of power. Share of vote in polls 6%

Green Party – a minority party which has effectively been excluded from taking part in party political debates by the state controlled BBC. Share of vote in polls also 6%.

Others -SNP, Plaid Cymru, UDP,SDLP and Sinn Fein in the devolved regions may all also have a small number of MPs elected to parliament.

On an equal footing from polls with approximately 34% of the vote each are the 2 main political parties –Labour and Conservatives.


What is already apparent from the Coalition propaganda is that this election and the run up to it will be about further castigating and scapegoating disabled people as a financial drain on the economy which is unsustainable and driving further the agenda of disabled people as being undeserving.

Further cuts the Conservatives have said they will impose if elected

  1. Implement a further £12billion cut from the welfare bill, a quarter of this to come from freezing benefit levels for 2 years in spite of fuel costs rising 73% and food prices by 40% since 2006. 10

  2. Pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights

  3. Scrap the Human Rights Act

  4. Reduce funding to Equalities and Human Rights Commission11

  5. End the need for Equality Impact Assessments to be carried out to monitor the impact of policies on disabled people.

  6. A further reduction of the overall benefit cap from £26,000 per annum to £23,000 per annum.

  7. Loss of welfare assistance funding from May 2015. These are emergency payments now made by local authorities to people in dire need.

  8. Reduction of ESA rates for disabled people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) to 50p above the Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) rates. This would mean a reduction in weekly benefits of £30 per week. 12

  9. The discredited Work Capability Assessments will be taken over by Maximus another corporation which has been found guilty in several legal challenges in the US. They will be paid £500 million over 3 and a half years to continue the tick box assessments that have led to so many deaths and suicides of disabled people.

  10. At the same time disabled people are facing these threats to their basic incomes there remain 2,700 ex-Remploy factory workers unemployed, cuts to Access to Work Funding and almost 90% of Employment and Support Allowance claimants on the Work programme have not moved into employment.13

  11. There is still no commitment to support independent living as a right and the Care Act coming into place in April 2015 replaces the term independent living with wellbeing something which is far from the former.

Continuing Misuse of Statistics

For the first time UK tax payers will receive a breakdown of where their tax money supposedly goes via a propaganda exercise costing £5 million. Money which even Austerity Britain seems able to find when it wants to.

This however seems to be a total misrepresentation of data and facts and what is shown as welfare spending in fact includes a large number of unrelated items to the real welfare spend of the country. While old age pensions have been separated, no other cost has, meaning the category includes in-work tax credits, money for disabled and sick people, child benefit, winter fuel payments for old people, Plus it seems all pension payments made to those in receipt of public sector pensions are included in the category of welfare spending. This alone accounts for £20 billion of money supposedly spent on welfare provision.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has also shown that the welfare total included £28.5bn of “personal social services” which is normally classified as a health and social care cost and not as a welfare spending.

Using IFS tables to calculate a more conventional figure for total welfare less state pension expenditure shows that these figures used by the government inflate the published welfare spending total by around 40%.14

Another issue the government appears to have misrepresented is rolling together income tax and national insurance despite the fact that these are paid separately, and fund different things. National Insurance is partly an insurance premium to safeguard against unemployment and the sickness and disability that stop you working, so some of the ‘welfare’ money is effectively payouts covered by premiums, and this has been made deliberately unclear by the presentation chosen.

We have already outlined numerous examples where Conservative politicians have been shown to be manipulating and misusing statistics but in relation to the Work Capability Assessments. We believe that the government has started manipulated the figures in view of the General Election, which means that the figures that the government could present to the CRPD Committee have become meaningless.

Disabled people stuck in the WCA assessment phase are included in the claimant count. What this means: 1) the number of ESA claimants is higher than it should be (some of the people in the assessment phase will be eventually found fit for work or will have recovered and ended their claims), which means that Iain Duncan Smith can claim that the WCA is working better.

2) the backlog is now 600,000 people, If you assume that 60% of them go onto ESA according to the latest figures (going back a while) and the rest on JSA, it means that to keep people in the assessment phase is artificially lowering down the number of JSA claimants, therefore the unemployment figure. There are however no recently available statistics to show this trend that have been published.

3) Without a more thorough analysis of the data WCA statistics may look as if they are improving as more assessments are paper based now to clear the ever increasing backlog which means those that are being processed on paper only relate to people viewed as having the most severe disabilities. 

The number of appeals has also fallen but this is due to the change to Mandatory Reconsiderations and also the fall in the number of assessments.

It is also 12 months since Mandatory Reconsiderations have been introduced as an alternative to people having a right to appeal against decisions relating to their benefit claims. No information has been published about how these are working or the time taken for them to be processed although during that period claimants cannot receive any income from ESA and many are left with no source of income.

Labour Party

The Labour party are offering little different to the Conservatives and seem unlikely to offer any real alternative. They say they will commit to keeping to Conservative spending levels for the first two years if they are elected which makes it impossible for them to alleviate any of the worst effects of the austerity pogrom that disabled people have endured.

1. They will continue with the Work Capability Assessments and Personal Independence Payment agendas and only pause with regard to the roll out of Universal Credit. Their comments are only that they hope Maximus will get better results than ATOS.

2. They will continue with the sanctions regime that has left thousands of disabled people with no source of income.

3. They say if we win the court case they will keep the Independent Living Fund open for current recipients but will not re-open it to anyone else.

4. If they adhere to current spending limits then local councils will continue to have massive spending cuts imposed on them leaving them without the funding needed to support independent living.

5. The Labour party has allowed their own structures and support for their disabled members to collapse. This has resulted in disabled people having little or no voice in the party. 

6. The labour shadow minster for disabled people has said that disabled people will no longer be forced to take part in the work programme unless they have mild impairments. What exactly she means by mild impairments is unknown and we feel this is open to abuse by untrained private sector work programme providers as well as open to interpretation by a whole range of others with no medical qualifications to make such a value judgement. This would particularly be the case if the biopsychsocial model was used to determine what is considered mild.

7. There is still no commitment to support independent living as a right and Labour support the introduction of the Care Act in 2015 which replaces the concept of independent living with that of wellbeing.

8. On a plus note Labour say they will abolish bedroom tax.

3 Taylor-Gooby, P. (2012) ‘Root and branch restructuring to achieve major cuts: the social policy programme of the 2010 UK coalition government’, Social Policy and Administration, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 61–82. Also available online at

6 NB. there are also many independent foodbanks being used as well.

11 The EHRC’s budget was cut by more than half, from £60m to £26.8m by 2014/15,in the 2010 Spending Review, representing a 62% cut to its original budget.

A comprehensive review of the remainder of the Commission’s budget was undertaken in 2012. The work of the Commission is now under threat

 Posted by at 22:22
Nov 072014

DPAC received this email from someone who wanted everyone to know what was going on with ESA and work providers. We have had many similar emails, but we don’t publish unless the person is absolutely sure they are OK with us doing that. All names and dates have been changed to protect anonymity.

Here we see why we cant trust the DWP (again), yet also how disabled people are being used to make money for private contractors (again), and the continuing chaos of ESA (again). A4E hit the headlines a while ago for taking tax payers money in ways that constituted fraud-we see they are still playing this game and still being served with public money to persecute people that should be left alone . But the Coalition continue to focus on disabled people as the fraudulent people- When will the public see exactly what’s going on and how many lies this Government has produced to protect their wealthy corporate friends, while they destroy everyone else’s lives?

November 2013 Began 2nd year Wrag and from  lodged request for Mandatory Reconsideration of WCA conducted on paper by Atos and received appointment to Attend A4e for induction course in December

2014  After various changes to original appointment attended the induction course with an advisor which lasted 3 hrs.  At that time made her aware that I had day hospital appointment for pain management course every Thursday through until end of August 2014 and she stated that she wouldn’t interfere with any of hospital treatment.

Began Pain Management in April and 2 weeks into it received appointment for interview with new advisor.   Attended and was told that regardless of hospital appts  am mandated to attend any appts made.

From then on in addition to hospital on Thursdays I had to go to various appointments at A4e for courses and interviews with advisors.   Being barely able to walk and having extremely limited use of only one hand due to a very rare neurological condition, I needed to take a taxi to A4e offices 12 miles from home at a cost of £26 each time.   Also, as patient transport was not available at times to suit my hospital appointments I paid a driver mileage expenses of £14 every Thursday to take me to the hospital and back.   My consultant at hospital was aware of the pressure from A4e during my time on the pain programme which included 8 weeks pain psychology.

On one occasion I was to attend an A4e Inspire course.  I asked the advisor what this entailed and she told me it was about positive psychology to motivate people and that although doctors tell people they are ill, that’s seldom the actual case.  Having a long career in law, I was immediately alerted to the implications of this especially as the course I was on was subject to my declaration to seek no other psychological (coginitive behavioural) therapy elsewhere.   My consultant was less than impressed with this especially when research revealed that these sessions were run by A4e trainers who had acquired a “qualification” on the internet. However, in the event, the invitation to Inspire never materialised.

At my last face to face interview with the advisor at the beginning of July she made it clear to me that I might as well get on with looking for a job as the dwp “would get me in the end anyway” and a few days later I received 3 appointments to attend their offices within the next 10 days.   At that time the Decision Maker was in contact with me and I advised her of the problems all this had caused  ie that it had indeed interfered with the intense demands of the pain programme, homework for that etc and the need to learn and practise stress management and relaxation and also that the cost of travel to 3 of their appointments and 1 hospital apt  in a week was more than the ESA I was receiving. A couple of days later I was put in the Support Group backdated to November 2013.

Since that time A4e have continued to issue 24 hr warning texts for appointments the following day for various courses and work focused interviews, followed up by telephone calls from the advisor requesting reason for non attendance.  I explained to her the terms of the rules re Support Group but she had never heard of them and stated I was mandated until JCP told her otherwise.   In response I stated that I had the paperwork necessary to protect me from any sanctions and had no intention of attending on a voluntary basis.

This situation has subsisted now but, to date, I haven’t made an official complaint.  The fact that I’m aware of JCP making the same demands on other people leads me to believe a complaint would be fruitless.  I have however made my local MP aware of the situation. I’m now over 60 with a long career in admin, banking and law and HR behind me and also had other skills working weekends prior to leaving school so there is little any work provider could teach me, a point which the decision maker has agreed with.  In the circumstances, I believe that A4e are processing me still as a “voluntary” attender and claiming a fee from JCP accordingly as this will be most lucrative with me being in the group hardest to place.

Other Problems encountered at A4e:
At induction claimants are requested to bring their birth certificates.  If they do not have them or refuse to hand them over A4e merely orders an Extract themselves. Work Program Guidelines state that this is unnecessary for identification (in any case who would want to hijack anyone’s place on the WP !). I was born Scotland where everyone’s birth certificate contains full details including their mother’s maiden name and details of parents marriage etc.   These certificates are kept in the claimant’s folder at A4e together with all other information from the claimant and DWP ie Nat Ins No etc making this a prime target for identity theft and when pointed out to them the advisors appear to have no knowledge of Data Protection Act.  This is extremely concerning but it’s a case of No birth certificate = no benefits.

The premises at their office at Clinton are accessible only via a heavy glass place aluminium door into a block of offices and once in there  a heavy wooden door is pulled outwards.  Accordingly, invariably disabled people have to hang around outside until a non-disabled person comes along to let them in.    New claimants are not made aware of any fire safety and during a training session there can be 50-60 people in their office at a time.

It was plain from things said to me and demands made by the advisor and from hearing conversations about other people when I was there (an open plan office with absolutely no privacy) that the staff have absolutely no awareness nor requirement for reasonable adjustments and merely treat those in WRAG and Support Group the same as a non-disabled 16 year old.

The Work Providers Guidelines give A4e and other companies the opportunity to flout the law and to treat claimants however they wish  by allowing them to “encourage and help them obtain employment “by whatever means reasonable to their circumstances”.    Unfortunately, most claimants have absolutely no idea about their rights in such a situation.

I can only speak to what goes on in A4e but, given my experience of them, I would welcome an investigation in the practises of all work providers who have the power to sanction claimants who can’t or won’t jump through the hoops they set up.

 Posted by at 21:59
Nov 072014

Here is a list of Local Authority responses to questions we asked about the closure of the Independent Living Fund. The questions were

1:      Will monies transferred from the closure of the ILF to your  local
authority be ring fenced to ILF recipients in your area? If no decision
has yet been taken, what is the process and timescale for this happening?

2:      Please could you state the process and timescale for meeting  with
current ILF recipients to prepare personal care plans for 1st  July 2015
onwards (bearing in mind the assessments at the Transfer  Review visits
only indicate desired outcomes and do not produce an  actual care

3:      Will you be making any special dispensation for allowing ILF
users to continue to employ their current & in many cases long  standing
carers of many years, bearing in mind some may be paid a  higher rate than
what LA’s may usually advise and be family  members  too?


If you can’t find your LA on this list it is because they have failed to answer, although in most cases it may be fair to say those that have might as well not have bothered since few give any useful information. Many thanks to Frank Black for making the FOI submissions.


Barking and Dagenham


Bath & North East Somerset


Blackburn with Darwen



Bracknell Forrest






Cheshire West & Chester

















Hammersmith & Fulham




Hertfordshire (Further Clarification of Position)










Milton Keynes




North Lincolnshire


Nottingham City


North East Lincolnshire

North Somerset

North Yorkshire






Richmond upon Thames








South Gloucester


St Helens

Sunderland – now reassessing ILF recipients from July 2015


Telford & Wrekin






Waltham Forrest



Will Warwickshire ring-fence devolved ILF funding either to individuals or
to Adult Social Care budgets?

No strategic decision has been made in relation to this.

When, before June 2015,  will people who need 24 hour care and support
find out from WCC what level of funding they will continue to receive
after June 2015 when ILF is likely to close?

Warwickshire County Council have a programmed approach over the next 10
months with the transfer, and people will be informed prior to the ILF
closure date.

West Berkshire

West Sussex





Please can you tell me how many people in Wokingham Borough Council area receive 24 x 7 care packages using the Independent Living Fund.
-There are 16 clients in Wokingham currently receiving ILF funding however as they receive funding via Direct Payments we do not have the information regarding their specific care arrangements.

2. How long before June 30th 2015 will these people know what will happen to their funding?
-Wokingham Borough Council’s policy and transition programme are currently being finalised, so we are unable to respond to this question at this point in time.

3. Please can you inform me of the plans being made for migration of people from ILF funded 24 x 7 care to Council funded care before the closure of the ILF.
-Wokingham Borough Council’s policy and transition programme are currently being finalised, so we are unable to respond to this question at this point in time.











 Posted by at 21:51
Nov 072014

Rev Paul Nicolson, of Taxpayers Against Poverty, is publicising his two recent court victories — which we can all use to challenge our Council Tax bills and the court costs added on top. See letter below.

And read the interview with him and Haringey single mum Michelle Moseley: ‘A powerful win’: single mother takes down council in supreme court.

 At the Supreme Court in June 2014 when the case was heard by the five judges.

At the High Court last month.

Key judgments on council benefit cuts

The Guardian, Sunday 2 November 2014

Two judgments given in October will impact on all council-tax payers, magistratescourts, local authorities and governmental consultations of the public. On 29 October the supreme court decided that the London borough of Haringey’s 2012 council-tax consultation was unlawful. On 10 December 2012 I had written to the leader of Haringey council: “I am shocked that no alternative to hitting the fragileincomes of the poorest residents of Haringey [with council tax] … was included in the recent consultation.” Declaring that consultation unlawful, Justice Lord Wilson wrote: “The protest of the Rev Nicolson in his letter … was well directed.”

Alternatives to the council’s preferred options must now be put to the public in a future consultation. In all fairness there must be an alternative to local government taxation of benefits that are being shredded by central government (Cameron accused of getting sums wrong on cuts, 31 October).

On 7 October the high court gave me leave for judicial review of the £125 costs for a summons sought by Haringey council from 28,882 late or non-paying households in 2013-14. The costs are imposed by Tottenham magistrates against benefit incomes on top of inevitable arrears.  I have deliberately allowed my council tax to become a civil debt. I was duly summoned to court, which allowed me the opportunity to ask the magistrates how they arrived at that £125. Haringey council has now withdrawn a summons against me, “as a matter of prudence during this period of on going litigation” and waived the £125.

The council has not replied to my letter inviting them to cease issuing all summons until it has reviewed the rationality and legality of that £125 it asks the magistrates to impose. Maybe all magistrates and councils in England and Wales should take notice.

Rev Paul Nicolson

Taxpayers Against Poverty


 Posted by at 19:44
Nov 072014


 DPAC fully support disabled students taking part in this march even if the NUS disgracefully say they no longer support it. We’d like to ask all disabled people who can to join with disabled students fighting for inclusion and rights to come along and join the march. Access information will be available shortly on the facebook page and we will add it to the website as soon as we have it.


19 November at 12:00


Assemble – Senate House, Malet Street, London



On 19 November, school, college and university students from across the country will be marching in London under the banner “Free Education: No fees. No cuts. No debt.” Disabled students will be there! It’s time to put this issue onto the political agenda and to fight for a public, democratic education system that serves the vast majority in society and is free and accessible to everyone.

Disabled student will be meeting at the front of the march, outside Senate house. For more information on accessibility and anything else please email
Free education is not just about abolishing fees, disabled students demand:

-Full living grants for all, and abolish tuition fees

-Full financial support for all access needs, save DSA but even more. We need to cancel DSA cuts, not just delay them.

-Decently funded support services on campuses for disabled students and university psychological services

-Defend the NHS from privatisation and fund it properly, improve mental health care resources

-Smash high rents, provide good quality accessible student housing. Ensuring Universities invest in accessible accommodation.

-Fund institutions to upgrade for full accessibility

To achieve these, we need a democratic, public education system controlled by communities, students and workers, and we need to fund it using the resources of those who can afford it – by taxing the rich, and by putting the wealth of the banks that we bailed out under democratic control.

****Invite your friends and colleagues!****

The demonstration is being organised by the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts (, the Student Assembly Against Austerity, and the Young Greens.

******More information on access on the demonstration coming soon********

 Posted by at 17:54
Nov 072014

We’ve had some complaints about poor access at Marylebone station and at other points along the Chiltern railway line. We are interested in hearing from anyone else who has experienced problems with access.


  • In particular we want to know whether you had problems due to lack of staff being available to support you. Did this mean you missed your train? What problems did this cause?


  • Whether you had problems at any of the unmanned stations covered by Chiltern eg. Warwick Parkway, Stratford


  • Whether you’ve had problems physically being able to fit onto the trains due to overcrowding. If this has been a problem could you let us know what time you travelled and whether it was after a match day event in London.


Please email us at


 Posted by at 15:41
Nov 072014

The action of the Health Service Executive(HSE) in Ireland to appoint “A Leading Irish Law Firm” to have “others” take control of Anthony’s life is deeply disturbing.

This action was taken by senior managers at HSE who have never met or attempted to listen to Anthony.

The HSE can call upon the services of expensive lawyers because they use public money. This “leading” solicitor made inaccurate written statements against Anthony’s campaign organiser, Joe Whittaker, but refused to apologise. This inability to acknowledge error is an indication of an arrogance. It is this same arrogance, that characterises the practice of statutory services, who use large sums of public funds to pay expensive law firms to grind disabled people and their families into submission, because they know those individuals do not have access to the financial means to challenge their oppressive practice.

This arrogance is morally corrupt and will be a cause of alarm to every right thinking person.

There is another way for statutory services to work:

Respect Human Rights.

Learn to listen to people you don’t understand.

Remember your organisation exist to serve human beings.


Ways you can Support #AnthonyKletzander:

Read Previous Posts

 Posted by at 15:14
Nov 062014

[Reblogged from Johnny Void, with thanks] people were arrested last night after an unprovoked attack by police on a lively and good-natured protest against the notorious ‘poor doors’ in London.

Around a hundred people gathered outside the swanky entrance of 1 Commercial Street – a luxury block of flats with a handful of social housing properties included.  A weekly demonstration has been held outside the building ever since it emerged that the tenants living in social housing are forced to use a different door to the toffs occupying the posh flats.

Last night’s protest saw an effigy of London Mayor Boris Johnson burst into flames whilst an angry mob chanted “Burn Boris Burn”.  A heavy police presence looked on, but the mood remained jovial and defiant as people waved sparklers, whilst occassional red flares added some Bonfire Night pizazz.  After the Boris was reduced to a pile of simmering embers, a clearly amused member of the fire brigade tipped water over the Mayor’s remains after instructions from police.

The protest, as on previous weeks, was scheduled to end at 7pm.  At around five to seven, just as things were starting to wind down, police lurched into the crowd grabbing several of the fantastically named Class War Women’s Death Brigade who were dancing with a banner.  Their target was Jane Nicholl, a member of the group and long standing supporter of the Poor Doors protest.  Despite valiant attempts from the crowd to release her, Jane was bundled into the back of a police van which was then promptly surrounded by protesters shocked at this senseless and unprovoked arrest.  Police reinforcements soon arrived and punchy coppers with dogs began to push protesters away leading to one more person being detained.

The arrest of Jane Nicholl, who was refused her medication and threatened with ludicrous arson charges, reveals a sinister pattern of events.  The only previous arrest at the these protests was of her partner and anarchist blogger Ian Bone, a high profile member of Class War who helped to instigate the demonstrations  It appears that the police are trying to force people off the streets by targetting and arresting those they have decided are ring leaders.  The only possible response to that is for as many people as possible to get down to next week’s Poor Doors protest and show the bastards we will not be intimidated.

Both Jane and the other person arrested were finally relased in the middle of the night.  Freedom Bookshop have issued a call for witness statements to help with any upcoming court cases.

Please helps spread the word: Poor Doors Demo, every Wednesday, 6pm, 1 Commercial Street, E1, next to Aldgate East tube

 Posted by at 22:04
Nov 042014

Join us to support Doug Paulley in his fight against FirstBus discrimination

Meeting Tuesday 11th November, 9.15am outside the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, WC2A 2LL (nearest station Blackfriars – stepfree to platform)

Doug Paulley, a campaigner and wheelchair user from Wetherby, takes his battle over wheelchair priority on buses all the way to the Royal Courts of Justice next week.

And we want to have a strong supportive presence outside the court to show FirstBus that disabled people everywhere are standing up for our right to ride.

Back in September 2012, Doug won a case against FirstBus over their ‘first-come, first-served’ policy which denied bus access to wheelchair users when the buggy space was occupied. But FirstBus are now appealing this decision, seeking to overturn the judge’s support for disabled people’s right to travel.


If Doug wins, it will set an important precedent and show bus companies across the UK that wheelchair users have a right to the wheelchair bay – a right protected in law.

The case will probably be heard from 10am. Transport for All members will be outside the Royal Courts of Justice with our placards from 9.15am with our voices raised, to show FirstBus that we stand beside Doug and the right of all disabled people to travel with freedom and independence. Join us!

Please email to let me know if you can make it, if you would like to be met at the station, or for any help with journey planning.

The Royal Courts of Justice are served by buses 11, 23, 26, 76 and 172.

 Posted by at 18:23
Nov 042014

(with apologies to Tom Pride)

Today we received an email from the laughably named Disability Rights UK, copied below:

Copy of email from DRUK pt1

Copy of email from DRUK pt2

and so on…….

At first it didn’t sound too catastrophic, we thought, and compared to our recent revelations about DRUK & Maximus and DRUK working for Private Health Insurance companies (including UNUM) with the 7 Families insurance marketing scheme, and their Association with Creagmore and an “Independent Living Conference” we thought this sounded like it might actually be about the interests of real actual disabled people!!! – ish.

hmmmm “so what’s the catch?” Said we.

And who is “guest speaker Professor Jacob Hacker from the US”? we thought.

So we looked :

And here he is – guest speaker Professor Jacob Hacker from the US

“He is the author of a 2007 proposal for universal health care, “Health Care for America,” that became a template for several presidential aspirants’ plans, as well as of several briefs on how and why to encourage private health insurance to compete with a new public health plan for the nonelderly—the so-called public option..”

So its not about forwarding the interests of disabled people at all, its about Private Healthcare Company Profits. Again.

Disability Rights UK” are not the least bit concerned about the Rights or the Interests of the disabled people of the UK.

DRUK are a no more than a shabby marketing outfit masquerading as a charity.

We demand that DRUK come clean about how much they are being paid to promote, lobby and market Private Health Insurance.

If you want to tell DRUK how you feel they are on twitter as @DisRightsUK or this is their website contact page

 Posted by at 11:55
Nov 032014
At a time when MPs have asked for an inquiry into the £1million bonus paid to Motability Operations CEO Mike Betts which he received on top of his half million pound salary it seem particularly cruel that he should be seen to be deserving of such a massive sum of public money when severely disabled people who need vehicles from the Special Vehicle Fund are being told their needs are too costly and unsustainable so they will no longer be eligible for grants from the scheme and therefore unable to replace vehicles which are essential to their independence. here 
You could well be forgiven for asking what exactly does the Motability Operations CEO do to attract such a high bonus given that Motability has both a captive market and no competition? That is indeed what MPs are trying to ask.
While we all know the facts about thousands of disabled people losing their vehicles due to changes to DLA entitlement Motability have without any consultation or even any public announcement changed their grant making conditions for funding for drive-from-wheelchair vehicles from the Special Vehicle  Fund claiming that this is financially unsustainable.
This change may not affect as many disabled people overall as the changes to PIP but for those deemed undeserving and unworthy of such funding it is a massive blow to independence and will, as most cuts seem to, prevent disabled people getting an education, getting and keeping employment and being able to take part in society in the same way non-disabled people can. Also of course we should remember that nothing from Motability is really free and that all or part of people’s Motability Allowance has to be paid to them to cover the costs of the hire of vehicles.
So how have their criteria changed well now only those who are seen as deserving will be eligible to apply for a grant, needs have not been considered. Given that Motability patrons include Cameron, Osborne and IDS who qualifies as deserving should come as no surprise to anyone. You must be in employment, education or volunteering for at least 12 hours a week or have a child under 14 years of age to be deemed worthy.
The issues of need do not calculate in Motability’s assessment of entitlement : things like do you have to travel with a hoist, and bulky equipment, do you live in a rural area with little or no public transport, can you actually use an accessible taxi and is there one in your area are factors which Motability seem happy to ignore.
If you want any further information about these secret cuts that Motability have made from June 1st this year email the director Declan O’Mahony at
 Posted by at 16:59
Nov 032014

A plea to the left – STOP using the “v” word about us, it’s way past time to know that’s not acceptable

DPAC would like to make a plea to the left to stop referring to disabled people as “vulnerable”. There is nothing inherently ‘vulnerable’ about us – it is society that makes us vulnerable by failing to value and include us.

It is a disgrace that the Tories are targeting people who face the most barriers and disadvantages, taking from those who have the least while the rich get richer, systematically dismantling our rights and entitlements.

Their behaviour in hiding what they are doing behind a malicious narrative that scapegoats benefit claimants and inflames hostility towards disabled people proves they are worse than nasty.

We can see how tempting it is to talk up the viciousness of the Tories by playing on images of those bearing the brunt of their rotten policies as helpless victims.

But disabled people are not just a stick with which to beat the Tories and the language used to describe disability has a powerful role to play in the continuing fight against disabled people’s oppression.

That oppression is driven by ideas rooted in capitalism that see disabled people as of lesser worth than other people: weaker, needy, helpless, vulnerable…reliant on others to survive, indeed a burden…

Those ideas of disability are ones disabled people and our allies across generations have spent so many many years fighting.

The progress we made in getting recognition for disabled people as people with a value equal to others has taken a hammering over the past few years.

Most of that hammering has come from the Tories who deliberately set out to undermine disabled people’s claims to an equal place in society and to push us back into the margins where we can’t interfere with their pursuit of profit.

Too often though over the past few years in the fight against the Tories, negative portrayals of disabled people have been pushed by people on our own side, including disabled people themselves, who have, consciously or otherwise, sacrificed principles of disability equality for the sake of lazy invective against the Condems and their vicious policies.

It is entirely possible to convey the awfulness of what is happening without falling into moralism, which will only ever take the argument so far.

Railing against Tory savagery is all very well if you are just looking for someone to hear you and come to the rescue. Increasingly however people are realising that rescue isn’t an option, that if we want change, it is up to us to make it happen.

To effect the sort of change we need,  we need an analysis that tells us how to fightback, an analysis that understands the attacks upon disabled people within the wider politico- economic situation.

When different groups come together to unite our resistance it is a chance to learn from each other, to develop our ideas, and to build that wider analysis.

That has been happening within the struggle against austerity.

DPAC not only values the immense solidarity and support we have received since 2010 but we also appreciate how much our allies have taken on to learn about access and inclusion for disabled people.

However there is still a considerable way to go to embed more advanced ideas about disability within the left to the same extent that for example the oppression of women, of black people, of the LGBT community is understood.

It is still widely the norm for the left to allow its acceptance of ruling class ideas about disability to go unchecked.
For example how often do you hear terms referring to mental health or learning difficulties used to denigrate political opponants and their policies? – references to white coats or loons or nut jobs or idiots or headbangers –  terms that recall painful experiences of the segregation and abuse of disabled people bantered around as easy put-downs.

In a trade union meeting recently my partner challenged use of the “v” word. He got the feeling most of the people in the room didn’t get the point he was making. He used DPAC members as examples of people who defy those traditional images of disabled people as objects of pity and tragedy. He was met with the kind of response that disabled campaigners are all too familiar with, the “yes but they’re not representative of the kinds of people we’re talking about” response, the kind of response that doesn’t necessarily reflect bad intentions but does reflect a failure to understand the nature and operation of oppression.

Speak to the doctors, social workers, psychiatrists and support workers of any DPAC activist and the prism through which they view us as individuals would absolutely fit with those traditional images of the vulnerable and the helpless.

Encounter us on action or picket line or at a meeting supported by our peers and we look completely different.

And that’s the point: disability is a construct.

It’s the barriers that society creates around people with impairments that limit and restrict us far more than our impairments do, at the same time dividing and weakening the grassroots communities we are from.

Awareness of the social construction of disability does not mean a denial of impairment and the experiences of pain or distress that can be a consequence of impairment, but it does mean a recognition that the major barriers to social inclusion faced by disabled people are not an inevitable consequence of impairment but rather a product of capitalism.

It means a recognition that an alternative is possible. One where people have a value that is not based entirely on their productivity within the labour market and their ability to make money for someone else.

What unites disabled people as an oppressed group are the barriers we face.

One of the biggest, most fundamental barriers disabled people face, one that leads directly to rather than away from mistreatment and abuse, is the idea that we are vulnerable and need protecting by non-disabled people. That outlook perpetuates systems and structures that hold disabled people powerless within our own lives and place us under the control of others.

One of the biggest frustrations that disabled activists face is the failure of people with otherwise good politics to understand the oppression of disabled people, who look uncomfortable speaking to a disabled person and as if they would rather be somewhere else, or who use the “v” word without really understanding who they are talking about or the oppression they are perpetuating through use of that language.

So come on left, after all we have been through together over the past few years, isn’t it time to show some respect and finally to get it?   


by Ellen Clifford

 Posted by at 10:53